Karaikkal Ammaiyar, Shaiva Saint

Period: Chola period (880–1279)

Date: ca. late 13th century

Culture: India (Tamil Nadu)

Medium: Copper alloy

Dimensions: H. 9 1/8 in. (23.2 cm); W. 6 1/2 in. (16.5 cm); D. 5 1/4 in. (13.3 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Purchase, Edward J. Gallagher Jr. Bequest, in memory of his father, Edward Joseph Gallagher, his mother, Ann Hay Gallagher, and his son, Edward Joseph Gallagher III, 1982

Accession Number: 1982.220.11


Ammaiyar, a sixth-century South Indian Shaiva poet saint, achieved her emaciated state after beseeching Shiva to free her from all her worldly encumbrances, including her famed beauty. He granted her wish, transforming her into a withered old woman, and she delighted in devoting her life to composing hymns in praise of her Lord. Here, she is seen singing Shiva’s praises, accompanying herself with a pair of cymbals. Her hymns celebrate Shiva’s predilection for cremation grounds and for his wild dancing form as Nataraja.